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CEPOL - 17 October 2022
Between 10-14 October, the CT INFLOW project organised a five-day regional workshop in Tunis on the implementation of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) Recommendation 8 for the representatives of Law Enforcement Agencies and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) from the Middle East and North Africa region. FATF is a global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog, and their recommendation requires that the laws and regulations that govern non-profit organisations be reviewed so that these organisations cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism.
Non-profit organizations (NPOs) are a vibrant and integral part of the contemporary global environment and play a significant role in combatting terrorism. While the vast majority of these entities work tirelessly to improve the lives of people around the world, a small number of organisations and individuals have taken advantage of the sector for contrary reasons: To support those who engage in terrorism.
To efficiently assess the risk at which these organisations operate, 60 participants from the MENA region, Turkey, Argentina and Moldova joined this event and shared good practices with each other, alongside with representatives from AFRIPOL and the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (CAERT).
“The better a country understands the flow of the funds through the NPO sector, the more likely we will be able to identify, disrupt, and prevent terrorist financing. The exchange of information between different institutions and agencies on the national, regional and international level is crucial to fight the misuse of the NPO sector” – emphasised CEPOL expert Simon Goddard.
The workshop concluded that the abuse of NPOs to finance or materially support terrorism may seem to be a risk with low probability, yet the impact of these activities is particularly acute for both the victims of terrorism and those who should benefit from the good works of these organisations. This immediate impact is multiplied when one considers the loss of public confidence in the integrity of the NPO sector.
The activity was co-organised with EU Global Facility on Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism and the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism, with the active involvement of the Global NPO Coalition on FATF. A member of the EU Delegation in Tunis and a representative of the host country also supported the event.
About CT INFLOW
The Counter-Terrorism Information Exchange and Criminal Justice Responses project aims at contributing to prevent and disrupt terrorist networks and the activities of recruiters to terrorism, cutting off terrorist funding, and bringing terrorists to justice, while continuing to respect human rights and international law.
20 October 2022|NEWS
Almost 3 000 cross-border money laundering cases have been registered at Eurojust during the past six years. Since 2016, the number of cases brought to the Agency has been steadily rising. Over 600 cases were brought to the Agency in 2021, representing more than double of those registered in 2016.
These are some of the findings of Eurojust’s first comprehensive report on money laundering, published today.
Due to its clandestine nature, the global scale of money laundering is difficult to measure, but it is considered to be significant. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) estimates that between 2 and 5% of global GDP - up to 1.87 trillion Euros - is laundered each year. This reflects Eurojust’s case statistics that show that money laundering cases accounted for almost 15% of all cases registered at the Agency between 2016 and 2021.
Over the years, Eurojust has developed practical knowledge of the challenges, solutions and best practices that can make a difference when engaging in international judicial cooperation on money laundering cases. These tips are collected in the Eurojust Report on Money Laundering, especially written for national authorities investigating and prosecuting cross-border money laundering cases.
A key challenge in many money laundering cases is identifying the beneficial owner of criminal assets. This is often very difficult because of the use of ‘shell’ companies, or because suspects do not act under their own name to hide the financial trail that would show the money’s illicit origins.
Cryptocurrencies, increasingly misused by criminals to launder their illegal profits, present another challenge for money laundering cases, as they make it difficult to keep track of the assets held by those under investigation. A best practice identified in Eurojust’s report is deploying highly skilled digital evidence experts during house searches to make copies of relevant electronic evidence and access crypto wallets belonging to suspects.
Eurojust’s experience shows other common issues, such as those relating to determining who is considered a victim in a given country, and how to ensure proportionate compensation for all victims when the amount frozen is not enough. In such cases, it can be useful to clarify, via Eurojust, the valid legal basis to freeze funds for restitution to victims.
Some cases show that the tracing of money transfers within the European Union is reasonably manageable, but when cooperation is required from outside the EU it becomes difficult, and sometimes authorities discontinue the pursuit of such cooperation. Here again, Eurojust’s wide network of Contact Points and Liaison Prosecutors can and have been crucial in judicial cooperation with third countries.
All EU Member States were involved in international money laundering cases brought to Eurojust during the last 6 years, with Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands dealing with the largest number of cases. Over 60 third countries were also concerned, with Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States and Ukraine representing the non-EU states most involved.
Eurojust’s money laundering casework shows how the Agency’s legal and practical support has hugely assisted practitioners in finding solutions.
Eurojust organised 600 coordination meetings between concerned national authorities and 33 action days during 2016-2021 (representing one third of all meetings and joint investigation teams facilitated by the Agency). Moreover, Eurojust also established 116 joint investigation teams dedicated to money laundering cases (accounting for one quarter of all joint investigation teams facilitated by the Agency).
Money laundering has received much legislative attention in recent years, including the proposal for an anti-money laundering package published in June 2021. Eurojust will continue to closely follow developments in this field and provide support to practitioners working to bring money launderers to justice.
STRASBOURG 13 OCTOBER 2022
Following a request to MONEYVAL by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) to obtain observer status, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, as the superseding body to MONEYVAL, considered and agreed with this request. The decision implemented through an amendment to the Statute of MONEYVAL has become effective as of 5 October 2022.
The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral development bank based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with experience in anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) issues as an observer to several FATF-style regional bodes. MONEYVAL is looking forward to fruitful cooperation with the IsDB.
The INTERPOL-coordinated operation, yielding more than 70 arrests, confirms the global footprint of Black Axe and similar organized crime groups.
Lyon, France: Behind the headlines that emerged earlier this month on the arrest of two suspected online scammers in South Africa lies a global police operation coordinated by INTERPOL.
Codenamed Operation Jackal, the joint law enforcement effort mobilized 14 countries across four continents in a targeted strike against Black Axe and related West-African organized crime groups.
Operation Jackal marks the first time INTERPOL has coordinated a global operation specifically against Black Axe, which is rapidly becoming a major security threat worldwide.
Black Axe and similar groups are responsible for the majority of the world’s cyber-enabled financial fraud as well as many other serious crimes, according to evidence analyzed by INTERPOL’s Financial Crime and Anti-Corruption Centre (IFCACC) and national law enforcement.
In South Africa alone, the two suspects arrested were wanted for online scams that extracted USD 1.8 million from victims.
Lifeblood of organized crime
Over one coordinated ‘action week’ (26-30 September), police worldwide launched enforcement operations against individuals linked to the Black Axe group, arresting suspected criminal operators or money mules, raiding and shutting down premises and seizing assets related to ongoing cases.
Two INTERPOL operational support teams were also deployed to South Africa and Ireland respectively to help coordinate international law enforcement teams on the ground. In Italy, the Carabinieri made three arrests in Campobasso within the framework of the operation.
In total, the operation resulted in:
-EUR 1.2 million intercepted in bank accounts
-49 property searches
-7 INTERPOL Purple Notices, detailing criminal modus operandi
-6 INTERPOL Red Notices, issued for internationally-wanted fugitives
“Illicit financial funds are the lifeblood of transnational organized crime, and we have witnessed how groups like Black Axe will channel money gained from online financial scams into other crime areas, such as drugs and human trafficking. These groups demand a global response,” said Stephen Kavanagh, Executive Director of Police Services, INTERPOL.
The immense quantity of assets seized, including 12,000 SIM cards, have provided new investigative leads for law enforcement, generating 13 analytical reports and allowing police to identify more than 70 additional suspects.
The lavish lifestyles and greed of many suspects – allegedly paid for by defrauding members of the public of their savings and other criminal activities – was on clear display at the scenes of their arrest. Various luxury assets were seized, including a residential property, three cars and tens of thousands in cash.
The operation also saw INTERPOL successfully deploy its new global stop-payment mechanism known as the Anti-Money Laundering Rapid Response Protocol (ARRP), currently in its pilot stage. Used within the framework of INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crime Task Force, the ARRP enables member countries to quickly intercept illegal proceeds of crime.
“The ARRP is a game-changer in the fight against global financial crime, where speed and international cooperation are crucial to intercepting illicit funds before they disappear into the pockets of money mules abroad,” said Rory Corcoran, Director of IFCACC. “INTERPOL’s Global Financial Crime Task Force has shown remarkable effectiveness in disrupting illicit financial flows, bringing together cyber and finance experts across sectors to track and cut off criminal money trails.”
Operation Jackal comes on the heels of INTERPOL’s first-ever roundtable engagement event with the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in Singapore last month, where a new joint initiative to take action against illicit financial flows was launched between the organizations.
Up to USD 2 trillion in illicit funds are laundered through the global financial system every year, according to the United Nations, and is estimated that less than 1% of these funds are intercepted and recovered.
“Fraud is transnational, there are no borders,” said Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of Ireland’s Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, which participated in Operation Jackal. “This is a great example of what can be achieved when international police forces cooperate by sharing intelligence, information and evidence. By working together with support from INTERPOL, the activities of these criminal gangs can be greatly disrupted, making it safer online for everyone.”
Operation Jackal was conducted under the aegis of Project CEFIN, which targets cyber-enabled financial crimes and is funded by the Republic of Korea.
The full list of participating countries in Operation Jackal are: Argentina, Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Nigeria, Spain, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.
ABU DHABI, 17th October, 2022 (WAM) -- The Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Counterterrorism Financing (EO AML/CTF) delivered the latest in a series of training workshops for officials working in the field of combatting financial crime, titled ‘Patterns of abuse of legal entities.’
The workshop was delivered over two days in Dubai and was attended by more than 150 participants from supervisory authorities, registrar offices, law enforcement agencies, and federal prosecution.
Hamid Al Zaabi, Director General of the EO AML/CTF, highlighted that while corporations play an essential role in the economy, they can be used for illicit purposes.
He explained, “Financial criminals around the world abuse legal entities in order to make ill-gotten gains through money laundering, bribery and corruption, insider dealings, tax fraud, the financing of terrorist activities, and other illegal activities. The UAE has made the fight against financial crime a priority by increasing transparency, applying a risk-based approach, ensuring closer national coordination, and enhancing expertise.”
He added, “Registrars in the UAE are working closely with financial institutions (FIs) and designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs) to identify beneficial owners, manage ML/TF risks, and implement AML/CFT controls based on these risks. The Executive Office is building a long term, sustainable, and effective AML/CFT framework, and as part of our strategy the EO AML/CTF will continue to organise and deliver specialist training in service of the national AML/CFT agenda.”
Senior executives from the EO AML/CTF gave three presentations on the first day on the UAE’s national compliance framework and FATF requirements, as well as typologies for the misuse of legal persons.
The Ministry of Economy presented on the UAE’s legal framework for preventing the abuse of legal persons.
Mohamed Al Katheeri, National AML/CTF Statistics Section Head, EO AML/CTF, said, “The UAE has carried out money laundering and terrorist financing risk assessments of all legal entity types, including in product delivery channels, geographical exposure, and company activities. The UAE has also been developing beneficial ownership and has enhanced full implementation of the National Economic Registry relating to basic information. Under the aegis of the EO AML/CTF, the UAE has unified information requirements by implementing new legislative obligations for verifying and updating information registries. The government has also developed proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for non-compliance cases.”
Dubai Police, the UAE Financial Intelligence Unit, Executive Office for Control and Non-Proliferation, Public Prosecution, Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation, Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship, and Customs and Port Security delivered presentations on various case studies and their typologies, as well as a session on targeted financial sanctions implementation and United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Sessions on supervision and risk-based approach and guidance for relevant entities were given by Abu Dhabi Global Market and Dubai Financial Services Authority for FIs and DNFBPs to aid their understanding of sector-specific risks.
Building on the expanded cooperation between government and business in the field of AML/CFT, Citi, HSBC, Dubai Islamic Bank, PwC, and Ernst & Young presented case studies.
ZURICH, Oct 12 (Reuters) - The Swiss government plans to create a central registry to track who actually owns legal entities in a move to fight money-laundering via shell companies, it said on Wednesday.
The cabinet asked the finance ministry to draft specific proposals by mid-2023 that could increase transparency by making it easier to identify corporate owners.
The move aims "to strengthen the prevention and prosecution of financial crime and thus the integrity and reputation of (Switzerland as a) financial centre and business location", it said in a statement.
But it has faced international pressure to shed more light onto the shadowy world of corporate ownership, where many companies cloak the identity of the real beneficiaries.
The goal was to create a central register for identifying owners and updating information about actual beneficiaries.
"The register should be accessible to relevant authorities, but not to the public. The aim is to find a solution that is as effective and efficient as possible," it said in a statement.
It asked the finance ministry to also consider steps to tighten anti-money-laundering rules, for example by widening their scope to include the legal professions, it said.
Parliament has in the past rejected the idea of subjecting lawyers and financial advisers to the same rules that banks face on reporting suspicious transactions.
Singapore, 7 October 2022 - Singapore today published a five-pronged strategy to prevent, detect, investigate, and enforce against terrorism financing (TF). The National Strategy for Countering the Financing of Terrorism (CFT) provides a roadmap for the development of future action plans to combat TF.
2-The National CFT Strategy was formulated based on findings from a holistic assessment of TF risks conducted in 2020. Singapore’s key TF threats are posed by regional and international terrorist groups as well as radicalised individuals, as they raise, move and use financial resources for terrorism purposes. Payment service providers carrying out cross-border money transfers and banks are inherently more vulnerable to TF threats, given the relative ease and speed with which their services may be used, coupled with Singapore being a financial and transport hub, and our proximity to countries exposed to terrorism activities.
3- The National CFT Strategy seeks to enhance coordination across law enforcement agencies, policy makers, regulators, supervisory agencies, and the private sector. Relevant law enforcement, policy, and supervisory agencies have adopted action plans as guided by the National CFT Strategy. 
4-The five points of the National CFT Strategy are:
i-Coordinated and Comprehensive Risk Identification
-Adopt a whole-of-Government approach. Agencies should coordinate tightly, through for example, already well-established cooperation committees and networks.
-Review our TF landscape regularly, taking into account current and emerging typologies, international standards and requirements, and inputs from the private sector and academia.
ii-Strong Legal and Sanctions Frameworks
-Ensure a comprehensive legal framework to enable law enforcement authorities to take swift and effective action against terrorists, terrorist organisations and their supporters, including financiers of terrorism, through.
-Ensure that our financial sanctions framework remains in line with international standards and conventions, and supported by a clear policy framework to identify and designate terrorists.
iii-Robust Regulatory Regime and Risk Targeted Supervisory Framework
-Ensure that our anti-money laundering/CFT regulatory framework remains robust, and our risk focused supervisory framework is effective and aligned with international standards and best practices.
-Further strengthen the private sector’s awareness of TF risks and CFT controls through targeted outreach, industry guidance and risk-focused supervision by sector supervisors such as MAS and MinLaw.
-Enhance surveillance and supervisory measures through the use of data analytics and technological tools to draw insights from data sources, as well as to detect and target higher risk activities and entities that may be involved in or exposed to TF activities.
iv-Decisive Law Enforcement Actions
-Strengthen inter-agency collaboration to ensure all instances of TF are promptly detected and investigated.
-Expand collaboration with private sector to better detect and disrupt TF activities.
-Ensure that investigative efforts translate into successful prosecutions through an effective legal operational framework.
v- International Partnerships and Cooperation
- Continue to rigorously implement and contribute to the development of international standards on combatting money laundering/TF/Proliferation Financing set by the Financial Action Task Force and relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions, via Singapore’s participation in the relevant platforms.
-Increase efforts to provide and seek legal assistance from other jurisdictions, as well as leverage informal channels of cooperation, to proactively tackle TF flows.
5-Singapore remains committed to taking firm and resolute action against TF to keep our country, region, and the world safe from terrorist activities.
Detecting travelers as potential terrorists at African borders
LYON, France – A counter terrorism operation coordinated by INTERPOL and AFRIPOL has enabled frontline police across Africa to detect potential terrorists and seize dangerous and prohibited goods.
The pan-African operation codenamed “FLASH-PACT”, aimed at strengthening the ability of border officers on the frontlines to identify suspected terrorists and dismantle the networks behind them, took place in two phases between July and September.
Using INTERPOL’s global criminal databases for wanted people, stolen travel and identity documents, and stolen vehicles, law enforcement worked together with INTERPOL and AFRIPOL to locate, intercept and stop criminals trying to cross regional borders.
Operation FLASH PACT: intelligence-led, collaborative and strategic
Underlining the need for a pan-African, multi-stakeholder effort against terrorism, the operation involved police, customs, border forces and counter-terrorism experts, including INTERPOL Regional Counter-Terrorism Nodes in Abidjan and Nairobi.
Participating countries focused their operations at airports, seaports, land border crossings and a range of pre-identified terrorist hotspots.
Ahead of tactical operations, investigators collected and examined data to establish a clear threat picture on regional terrorism using globally sourced data from INTERPOL’s 195 member countries.
Stronger borders, stronger national security
With stolen travel documents a key asset for terrorist mobility, particularly foreign terrorist fighters returning from conflict zones, the operation saw INTERPOL’s databases queried more than six million times, resulting in some 400 hits on INTERPOL’s travel and identity documents database.
Access to INTERPOL databases at border control points saw nine people flagged as Red Notice subjects. An INTERPOL Red Notice is a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action.
Highlighting how terrorist activity often converges with other crime areas, more than 20 people were identified as wanted by INTERPOL for a wide range of serious crimes including fraud, money laundering, drugs and wildlife trafficking.
One man was flagged as the subject of an INTERPOL-United Nations Security Council (UNSS) Special Notice which alerts the global law enforcement community to individuals that are subject to sanctions imposed by the UNSS. The three most common sanctions are asset freezing, travel ban and arms embargo.
Several INTERPOL Blue Notice subjects were detected attempting to cross borders in the participating countries. A Blue Notice serves to collect additional information about a person's identity, location or activities in relation to a crime.
“Western and Eastern Africa have seen increased terrorism in the past decade. This is quickly spreading its devastating impact southwards, causing death, fear and destruction - a devastation for African communities and economies,” said INTERPOL’s Executive Director of Police Services Stephen Kavanagh.
“Counter-terrorism operations like FLASH-PACT are clear evidence of the joint commitment AFRIPOL-INTERPOL partnership as it allows us to share expertise on local terrorist networks, better understand their methods, motives and financing and ultimately identify and arrest those who chose to spread terror,” added Mr Kavanagh.
Officers in Uganda and Benin detained six travellers using forged passports, and in Mozambique police authorities arrested a man in possession of an AK-47 assault weapon, two magazines and 51 rounds of ammunition. In another case, police seized 360 rolls of explosives and a detonating cord.
More than 250 travellers were intercepted for attempted illegal immigration, and several stolen luxury vehicles were recovered in Tanzania.
A powerful partnership
INTERPOL, AFRIPOL and the African Union work side by side on matters of joint interest, sharing resources and expertise, and developing combined responses to Africa’s policing needs.
“As a regional police organization, AFRIPOL provides a framework for police cooperation at the strategic, tactical and operational levels in all African states, helping us build stronger, meaningful capabilities for African law enforcement through our partnership with INTERPOL,” said AFRIPOL’s Acting Executive Director, Ambassador Jalel Chelba.
“It is important to underline the role of joint operations such as FLASH-PACT in enhancing cooperation and security for African countries. INTERPOL’s support has enabled the sharing of intelligence information which leads to a greater security through arrests and seizures,” added Ambassador Chelba.
Operation FLASH-PACT is the first counter-terrorism operation organized by the two police Organizations since the establishment of AFRIPOL by the African Union in 2014.
The operation was coordinated with the help of INTERPOL’s Support Programme for the African Union (ISPA) which assists AFRIPOL in developing its strategic framework and operational functions across the continent and in fighting transnational crime and terrorism with INTERPOL and other regional policing bodies.
Djibouti, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda took part in Phase one of Operation FLASH-PACT from 14-18 July. Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Benin, Burkina Faso, Congo (DRC) and Nigeria carried out their leg of the operation during Phase 2 from 4-8 September.
The UAE has seized and confiscated assets worth more than Dh4.73 billion ($1.29bn) in the 12 months to the end of July as the Arab world’s second-largest economy steps up its fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism.
Assets worth Dh2.54bn were seized by authorities while assets worth Dh2.19bn were confiscated in the one-year period, Hamid Al Zaabi, director general of the UAE’s Executive Office of Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT), told The National in an interview.
UAE authorities have also frozen assets worth more than Dh13 million during the same period as the country, a financial centre in the Middle East, prioritises AML/CFT as part of its efforts to achieve its national strategy goals.
“The UAE takes these AML/CFT matters extremely seriously and this is the reason why it came up with the idea of the executive office to take the lead [role] in the system and focus on shaping policies and strategies, co-operation and engagement,” Mr Al Zaabi said.
“So, we now have a department working on domestic compliance and co-ordination, and a department that focuses on international co-operation, AML/CFT partnerships and communication.”
The UAE has made significant progress in combating money laundering, the financing of terrorism and weapons proliferation over the past few years.
The country's Financial Intelligence Unit — the central agency that works closely with authorities to determine links between possible proceeds of crime, money laundering or terrorist financing — reported a 51 per cent year-on-year rise in the number of suspicious transaction reports (STRs) in the first quarter of this year.
The financial sector, a main pillar of the UAE economy, contributed the vast majority of those STRs, the executive office said in August.
There was also a significant rise in the AML/CFT enforcement actions in 2021, with total enforcement actions exceeding Dh42m.
Authorities in the UAE confiscated more than Dh2.35bn in illicit assets last year, of which Dh15m was in gold and precious metals.
The number of people jailed for financial crimes reached 40 and fines worth Dh860m were handed down for fraud and money laundering.
In June, Dubai Police arrested hedge fund trader Sanjay Shah on an international warrant issued by authorities in Denmark.
Skat, Denmark's tax authority, alleged that Mr Shah, a British citizen, was a central player in a scheme in which foreign businesses pretended to own shares in Danish companies, before claiming tax refunds for which they were not eligible.
Authorities also worked closely with South African officials to arrest Atul and Rajesh Gupta after Interpol issued a red notice against them for allegedly looting billions from state-owned companies.
Established in February last year, the executive office is charged with overseeing the enforcement of the UAE’s National AML/CFT Strategy and the National Action Plan (NAP), Mr Al Zaabi said.
The strategy, with 12 key goals to be achieved between 2020 and 2023, defines the UAE's approach to build an integrated system to speed up its response to money laundering crimes, as well as combat the financing of terrorism and illegal organisations.
Primarily a national policy and co-ordinating body on AML/CFT efforts, the executive office has a wide-ranging mandate to ensure the UAE has a sustainable and resilient AML/CFT framework and is currently co-ordinating with more than 80 government entities and law enforcement agencies in the country, said Mr Al Zaabi, who is the founding director general of the body.
“The EO priority is to develop [strategies] and follow up with all the government entities in the UAE on it Project Portfolio Management system (PPM), which is also used by a number of UAE ministers to have direct access to progress reports,” Mr Al Zaabi, said.
The PPM is a system “that ensures proper oversight of all agencies and maintains their compliance with the National AML/CFT Strategy and Action Plan”, he said.
Mr Al Zaabi, a senior law enforcement official with more than 20 years of experience in the fight against financial crimes and AML/CFT, has slowly built his team of experts from an initial 20 at the launch.
“Now we are talking about a team of 45 people in the executive office,” he said.
“But, at the same time we have a national group, a team [of experts], which is more than 200 people at different government entities.”
The executive office works with that group of experts and receives information that it uses in its tools and systems.
It plans to increase its staff strength to 50 by the end of this year and add another 25 experts next year, mostly compliance and data experts, he said.
The Public-Private Partnership Committee, chaired by the executive office, is co-ordinating closely with the private sector in the UAE to curb financial crimes in the country.
Through its three-year strategic plan, the committee, the first of its kind, is pushing to enhance the country's AML/CFT efforts in line with the criteria laid out by the Financial Action Task Force, he said.
The Fiji Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) recorded a number of money laundering and financial scam cases during the COVID period and beyond.
Speaking to members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, FIU director Razim Buksh said they had dealt with cases involving internet banking fraud, ATM skimming, email spoofing, business email compromise, phishing, identity theft and social media scams.
He presented case studies before the committee, including that of a 44-year-old man who was reported to the FIU for conducting deposit transactions amounting to $2 million in a three-year period.
“We established that he had $4.4m in investments and bank accounts,” he said.
“The individual was a director of two local companies. Bank account analysis showed that the funds in the investment and bank accounts were sourced from businesses with various narrations such as profit from business.
“We identified a discrepancy of $8.2m between deposits observed through his business and the amount that he declared for taxation purpose.”
He also highlighted the case of a nightclub which deposited $30,000 in cash, which in turn triggered a suspicious transaction report from a reporting institution.
“The owner operates the nightclub as a sole proprietorship in 2020 and 2021 and you’ve guessed it right, in both years we had a lockdown and one sector that was under longer lockdown was the nightclubs.
“In 2020 and 2021 the nightclub received $3.9m in large cash deposits. It is unclear how the nightclub generated these funds given the COVID restrictions.”
Mr Buksh also cited the case of an individual on social pension scheme with 37 land titles registered under his name.
“A foreigner on a visitor’s permit was also found in possession of prohibited sea products
“He owned three motor vehicles and paid his fine with cash. He does not have any bank accounts and it is unclear how he paid his fines or acquired his vehicles, or rather, assets.
“A minor received a remittance of $150,000 for an entity, you can make guesses as to what the minor was receiving from an offshore entity. An individual received multiple high value international money transfers from unknown third parties in a span of nine days.
“In five months, an individual received multiple deposits from a third party totaling $250,000. A person bought $40,000 in cash as deposit to purchase property. The funds were not obtained from any bank account as far as our intelligence and investigation went.
“A massage parlour received over $500,000 in cash deposit followed by subsequent cash withdraws over a 12-month period.”
Mr Buksh also highlighted that they had connected with over 166 financial intelligence units around the world, including regional agencies, to ensure they were on top of their game to curb financial malpractices and crimes in the country.
Australia - Two men will face court in relation to a business email compromise scam that diverted more than a million dollars.
In October 2021, it is alleged a Tasmanian victim was arranging the purchase of a house through a conveyancer.
The email correspondence from the conveyancer to the victim was allegedly compromised by a third party who altered the attached account payment information.
As a result, the victim allegedly unwittingly transferred over $1.2 million to the scammers.
This type of scam is commonly referred to as a business email compromise, or BEC.
Serious and Organised Financial Crime Investigation Section conducted a lengthy investigation and identified two main suspects.
The first suspect, a 22-year-old Pooraka man, was arrested on 11 August and charged with dishonestly dealing with property and money laundering. He will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 2 March 2023.
The second suspect, a 30-year-old man from Canberra, was arrested in Adelaide on 23 September and charged with theft, money laundering and operating a financial business without a licence. He will appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 7 December 2022.
Police identified that the money had been transferred between numerous bank accounts, with $170,000 being converted into cryptocurrency. $100,000 of the cryptocurrency has been recovered, with the remaining $70,000 worth cryptocurrency being sent overseas to Ghana. Police further identified that a further $66,000 had been used by the suspects to purchase shares, and investigations are continuing.
South Australia Police would like to remind the community that if an email is received advising of a change in banking details, ring the sender on a known number to confirm the changes before paying, and don’t click on any links in an unsolicited email or text message.
Hong Kong – A group of seven prominent professionals comprising solicitors, barristers, forensic accountants and financial regulation experts have jointly launched the Hong Kong Chapter of the Crypto Fraud and Asset Recovery network (“CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter” or “the Hong Kong Chapter”). CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter’s objectives are twofold: to promote best practice in fraud detection and asset recovery in Hong Kong’s digital asset ecosystem and to position Hong Kong at the forefront of global digital asset regulation and dispute resolution by acting as an authoritative and independent voice in crypto-related judicial and regulatory reviews and consultations. Ultimately, CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter aims, through its work, to increase trust in the cryptocurrency industry and thereby promote safer and more secure adoption of digital assets.
CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter was formed a year after the launch of CFAAR in London in September 2021. It will work closely with other CFAAR chapters across Asia and globally.
The Hong Kong Chapter's founding members include:
-Henry Chambers, Senior Director, Disputes and Investigations, Alvarez & Marsal
-Byron Chiu, Barrister, Temple Chambers
-Jonathan Crompton, Partner, RPC
-Donald Day, former SFC virtual asset policy expert
-Calvin Koo, Disputes and Investigations Lawyer, Kobre & Kim
-Laurence Li, SC, Temple Chambers
-Dorothy Siron, Co-Managing Partner, Zhong Lun Law Firm
Commenting on the launch of the CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter, the group of founding members said: “Hong Kong is one of the fastest-growing digital asset markets in the world. Recently ranked once again as the freest economy in the world, it has led the way in fostering innovation and encouraging institutional participation, while providing considered and thoughtful regulatory oversight to protect the interests of investors.
“As digital assets become mainstream, the frequency and sophistication of scams including cryptocurrency theft and ransomware are increasing. While the value of digital assets lost to crypto crime has slowed since the start of the current 'crypto winter', by June 2022 the value of digital assets stolen in hacks was higher than in 2021 year-on-year.
The increased uptake of digital assets and of related illicit activity is driving a sizeable uptick in disputes and court cases in Hong Kong. The CFAAR Hong Kong Chapter was established to foster and share the most effective legal and investigative tools to recover digital assets lost to fraud, to improve the advice given to victims of fraud and to encourage best practice among digital asset service providers.”
The Hong Kong Chapter encourages professionals in the digital asset industry to join an inclusive community to promote skills development, innovation and networking in Hong Kong through meetings, seminars, roundtables, conferences, social events and publications.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Tuesday the reforms in the Bank Deposits Secrecy Law is one of its priority legislative agenda for the 19th Congress.
The BSP outlined its legislative agenda to promote the stability and ensure soundness of the banking and payment systems.
“The BSP will work with the 19th Congress on the passage of priority bills that are expected to boost public trust and confidence in the country’s financial and payment systems,” BSP Governor Felipe Medalla said in a statement.
The proposed amendments to the Bank Deposits Secrecy law aim to strengthen the banking system’s capacity to effectively combat tax evasion, money laundering, and other financial crimes.
The BSP in the 18th Congress supported the passage of House Bill No. 8991 which sought to allow for a thorough examination of bank accounts with suspicious transactions.
India’s fight against digital asset money laundering isn’t letting up any time soon. In the latest crackdown, the country’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) has frozen over $1.5 million worth of BTC held at Binance by a local mobile gaming scam.
ED, India’s economic intelligence agency, announced on September 28 that it had frozen a Binance wallet that held 77.62710139 BTC, worth Rs 12.83 Crore ($1.57 million) under the provision of the country’s Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The crackdown is part of an ongoing probe into Aamir Khan and other operators of E-Nuggets, a mobile game that ED claims was developed to defraud unsuspecting Indian investors.
“Further, after collecting seizable amount of money from the public, all of a sudden withdrawal from the said App was stopped on one pretext or the other. Thereafter, all data including profile information was wiped off from the said App servers,” ED’s press release read.
Having raised millions of dollars from Indians, Khan allegedly turned to digital assets to launder the money and transfer it out of the country. He started by opening a ‘dummy account’ under a different name at WazirX, one of India’s largest exchanges whose link to Binance has been the subject of controversy in recent months.
The BTC was then transferred to Binance, where it was held when the ED intervened.
In a statement to the media, Binance played off the incident as a win for the embattled exchange, saying it proves that Bitcoin isn’t for criminals.
“The transparent nature of blockchain means that the transactions are publicly available and traceable – which is not an option with traditional financial transactions. We can confirm that Binance froze the funds at the request of the Enforcement Directorate. It’s our position to cooperate fully and collaboratively with all legally valid requests and inquiries,” the exchange claimed, even as it faces dozens of regulatory hurdles for operating illegally, offering unlicensed products, lax KYC programs, and other crimes.
On its part, WazirX claimed to be cooperating with regulators “by providing them with all the necessary details, information and documents of the alleged accused sought by the investigators.” However, it didn’t explain how the criminals were able to open accounts under fake names, purchase millions of dollars’ worth of BTC and move it around.
The crackdown is part of the ED’s ongoing probe into the use of digital assets to launder money and move hundreds of millions of dollars out of India. WazirX has been at the heart of these investigations, culminating in the ED freezing over $8 million in assets owned by the exchange. ED was also concerned about Binance’s role at WazirX; while for years Binance was believed to own the Indian exchange, CEO Changpeng Zhao denied the claims recently.
Ankara 19-20 September 2022 _ Two-day workshop on “Fight Against Financing of Terrorism While Ensuring Procedural Safeguards” was held in Ankara on 19 and 20 September 2022.
Around 40 members of the judiciary, representatives from the Turkish Ministry of Justice, law-enforcement and other relevant financial institutions, as well as lawyers discussed about standards, challenges and perspectives to better fight terrorism related crimes, focusing on financing of terrorism.
Participants had opportunity to exchange with lawyers and international experts on human rights standard ensuring safeguards in investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Enriching conclusions among participants were reached during the second day case-studies discussions, particularly in the field of fair trial, legal assistance and right to private life.
This meeting was organised under the EU/CoE Joint Project “Strengthening the Criminal Justice System and the Capacity of Justice Professionals on Prevention of the European Convention on Human Rights Violations in Turkey”.
Security agents in China have uncovered a money laundering ring that allegedly used virtual currencies to carry out their nefarious activity. The Hengyang County Public Security Bureau disclosed that the gang was responsible for laundering over $5.5 billion (RMB40 billion).
A police spokesperson revealed in a press statement that 93 persons were arrested in connection to the case at over 10 different locations. Apart from the seizure of funds worth RMB300 million ($41.8 million), authorities confiscated over 100 electronic gadgets from the suspects.
The spokesperson revealed that the criminal gang was led by Hong Moumou and engaged in fraud and illegal gambling across China. To mask the proceeds of illicit activity, Hong’s gang used a vast network of local companies and gold as a front.
The statement from the police also revealed that the gang turned to virtual currencies to cover the money trail and then converted the assets to United States dollars. Local police say they recovered RMB7.8 million ($1.08 million) belonging to victims of the gang’s fraudulent activities despite their attempts at obfuscating their financial footprint with digital assets.
Investigation into the crackdown dragged on for months, with reports noting that the gang had been carrying out their nefarious activities since 2018. The gang’s activities were mostly centralized in Hainan, Guangdong, Fujian, and Jiangxi, according to police reports.
If convicted, the suspects could face up to 10 years in jail for their actions, and China’s negative stance on digital assets could see them receive even harsher punishments. China had previously made virtual currency transactions illegal and imposed stiff penalties on offenders, including lengthy jail sentences and payment of fines.
The Chinese witch hunt
China was once home to a majority of BTC miners and accounted for over 70% of the network’s hash rate before government regulators banned using digital assets for transactions and precluded banks and financial institutions from settling transactions.
The witch hunt was extended to virtual currency mining and service providers, which led to a mass exodus of miners from the country to new jurisdictions. The government has seen the blanket ban as a ploy to promote its digital yuan, a central bank digital currency (CBDC) issued by the People’s Bank of China (PBoC).
Despite the ban, there is speculation that some miners never left mainland China. Authorities said the miners went underground and are masking their activities using mining pools and virtual private networks.
Wolfsberg Group August 23 - Today the Wolfsberg Group is publishing its guidance paper on Requests For Information (RFIs) as used in the anti-money laundering transaction monitoring process.
An RFI is used when a Correspondent (or any other provider of payment services) is seeking to understand the background of a transaction that has been processed through an account or relationship in its books and is directed at the customer entity that sent the payment instruction to the Correspondent – this is seen in correspondent banking and other payment relationships where a bank is acting as an intermediary.
The RFI process is a vital part of the feedback loop between Correspondent and Respondent. It is more than simply a process whereby information is conveyed about particular transactions. Used to its fullest potential, it is a vital source of information that allows the Correspondent to see how the Respondent’s AML/KYC programme works in practice and gives the Respondent the opportunity to demonstrate how elements of its programme, which will have been described in its Correspondent Banking Due Diligence Questionnaire (CBDDQ), functions.
The timeliness, and completeness of responses can be an important input to the Correspondent’s evaluation of the Respondent relationship. Also, receipt of an RFI may serve as a trigger for the Respondent to consider its own assessment of its customer’s risk profile.
You can access the RFI Best Practice Guidance on Wolfsberg Group webpage.
The UK government has announced plans to rolled out reforms to protect the economy from fraud and money laundering.
The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill aims to “drive dirty money out of the UK,” read a press release by the Home Office. The Bill is currently in Parliament for a second reading that will take place next month.
Organised criminals, terrorists, and kleptocrats will be targeted, by needing to verify their identity before being able to register a company in the UK. The new regulation will require more transparency from businesses forming limited partnerships, and simplify registration processes for reliable businesses to protect small business owners and consumers from falling prey to fraud and money laundering.
On the Bill, Business Secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg stated: “This historic Bill will equip Companies House and law enforcement with the tools they need to root out criminals attempting to hide their activities without burdening law-abiding companies with unnecessary bureaucracy. Above all, via strict enforcement measures, we are telling investors that the UK is open for legitimate business only.”
The law will make it easier for authorities to seize, freeze, and recover digital currencies that are being used by cyber-criminals.
Home secretary Suella Braverman stated: “Through this Bill we are giving our law enforcement agencies greater powers and intelligence capabilities to stay one step ahead of the criminals intent on keeping their corrupt assets out of reach.”
The Bill builds on the Economic Crime Transparency and Enforcement Act that facilitated imposing sanctions on Russian assets in the UK and eliminating corruption from outsider borders in UK property.
Director general of the National Crime Agency, Graeme Biggar concluded: “Domestic and international criminals have for years laundered the proceeds of their crime and corruption by abusing UK company structures, and are increasingly using cryptocurrencies. These reforms – long awaited and much welcomed – will help us crack down on both.”
Commenting on the new regulation, Neil Williams, deputy head of complex crime at Reeds Solicitors LLP noted: “Companies house reforms have been long overdue, and the ECTE act provisions earlier this year were only the start of the process. The changes to the register should theoretically provide transparency to corporate structures and ownership, making it easier for all to see who is really in control and benefitting, but it is only as strong as its weakest link. Enforcement is key, and resources are paramount. The new bill would seem to provide much needed powers to bolster the effectiveness of the reforms, and to properly enforce them.
“There will be concerns over the extent and ease by which information can be shared, as legitimate businesses rightly should expect privacy safeguards, so details will be important. Will it drive all dirty money out of the UK? Unlikely, but it will make it harder to hide in plain sight. The reforms might be late, but at least they might not yet be too little.”
Thomas Cattee, head of white-collar crime at Gherson Solicitors LLP also commented on the role this regulation will open upfor the Serious Fraud Office (SFO): “This will give the SFO powers prior to opening an investigation in relation to a wider variety of offences to force parties to give it documents on a wider variety of suspected crimes and we can certainly expect it to use these S2A powers more extensively now. This new power to obtain information initially could result in the SFO opening more investigations into offences other than bribery and corruption. In what has been reported as difficult time this gives the SFO a chance to demonstrate that it is determined to investigate in the right circumstances all types of financial crime.”
Earlier this year, the UK government announced plans to regulate AI by implementing a new AI rulebook.
Japan's government is planning to introduce new rules for money transfers to stave off the use of cryptocurrency exchanges for money laundering, according to a Tuesday report by Nikkei.
The Act on Prevention of Transfer of Criminal Proceeds will be amended to require crypto exchanges to share customer information when they move tokens between platforms, in a move that will help Japanese authorities to track money transfers by people engaged in illegal activities, the local news agency reported.
A draft amendment to the legislation was said to be introduced to the National Diet, Japan's bicameral parliament, on October 3. The new remittance rules, though, are expected to take effect in May 2023.
Aside from cryptos, the law will apply to stablecoins, a digital token in which its value is tied to a reference asset such as a fiat currency like the U.S. dollar or a commodity like gold.
The move comes as some other regulators across the globe seek to narrow their focus on stopping criminals from using digital assets to launder money. The U.K. government, for instance, recently unveiled a bill aimed at making it easier for authorities to "seize, freeze and recover" cryptos.
Publicly-traded firms that operate crypto exchanges include: Coinbase Global (COIN), Net Savings Link (OTCPK:NSAV), Robinhood Markets (HOOD) and Plus500 (OTCPK:PLSQF).
Elsewhere in crypto regulation, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said earlier that appropriate regulation for crypto is needed as its use increases.
Seized drugs valued at nearly three-quarters of a billion US dollars
LYON, France – An international operation coordinated by INTERPOL has laid bare the vast scale of drug trafficking with the seizure of illicit narcotics and precursor chemicals worth more than USD 717,000,000 and the arrest of 1,333 suspects worldwide.
Operation Lionfish V (23 June - 31 July) targeted the trafficking of illicit drugs along air, land and maritime routes in 22 countries worldwide via a coordinated cross-border approach, with more than 291 tonnes of precursor chemicals and 35.5 tonnes of narcotics seized.
While traditional drugs like cocaine and cannabis continue to represent a significant share of the illicit drugs market, the operation underscored the rise in the production and sale of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine, Captagon and ketamine.
Precursor chemicals are especially valuable to criminal organizations because they allow them to produce an endless supply of synthetic drugs with a very high profit margin. The production of synthetic drugs does not rely on environmental or external factors like cocaine and heroin and can be manufactured in urban settings close to major transportation hubs.
During the five-week operation authorities recovered 1.8 tonnes of ketamine, 683 kg of methamphetamine and 581 kg of Captagon. Significant seizures also included:
-20.2 tonnes of cocaine
-11.7 tonnes of cannabis
-158 kg of heroin
-65,100 tablets and 48 kg of Tramadol
-9,500,000 pseudoephedrine tablets used to manufacture methamphetamine
-dozens of firearms, rockets and explosives
A clandestine super-lab capable of producing thousands of kilograms of ketamine was dismantled in Cambodia, where police arrested an individual wanted internationally on an INTERPOL Red Notice for alleged transnational drug smuggling offences.
The 1,333 arrests made during the operation include 25 different nationalities, further highlighting how drug trafficking is a global problem which requires a global response.
Indian authorities made the largest single seizure of heroin during the operation after 75.3 kg of the drug were intercepted in the Port of Mundra. In a statement, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) underlined how the country’s National Central Bureau for INTERPOL coordinated with law enforcement agencies globally, for concerted action against drug networks with international linkages, with a view to disrupt, dismantle and degrade illicit drug networks.
The operation showed that traffickers use various types of transport modes to smuggle their narcotics including containerized maritime cargo, air couriers, postal/express mail services, commercial vehicles, GOFAST vessels and small aircraft.
INTERPOL’s global network
During the operation, INTERPOL’s Criminal Networks and Drugs unit coordinated operational meetings to facilitate the exchange of information via INTERPOL’s I-24/7 secure global communications channel between participating countries.
INTERPOL successfully deployed its Relief database during the operation, a forensic capability which is capable of linking global drug seizures together. It resulted in the positive match of two prior drug seizures in Brazil and Germany.
“Criminal groups operate like a global fortune 500 company. They seek to maximize profits, minimize risk, diversify their holdings and look for emerging markets,” said INTERPOL Secretary General Jürgen Stock.
“Operation Lionfish demonstrates what can be achieved in tackling this global threat when member countries work together via INTERPOL to connect and empower police around the world for the safety and security of our citizens,” added Secretary General Stock.
Pre-operational and capacity building meetings in Abu Dhabi, UAE demonstrated the effectiveness of bringing law enforcement experts together to share real time intelligence leading to the disruption of global drug routes and those complex criminal organizations which control them.
Lt Col Dana Humaid, Director General, International Affairs Bureau, UAE Ministry of Interior, said: “The complex nature of today’s criminal organizations demands a sophisticated and coordinated response from law enforcement agencies. The United Arab Emirates was pleased to be able to leverage its strategic location at the crossroads between Europe, Asia and the Americas to bring together international drug law enforcement experts and disrupt criminal activities that know no borders.”
“The success of Operation Lionfish V sends a clear message to international crime groups that successful collaboration among international law enforcement is possible. The UAE is committed to supporting its partners in INTERPOL to deepen this cooperation over the years to come.”
Lionfish was carried out under the umbrella of Project AMEAP (Africa, Middle East, Asia Pacific), a multi-year project targeting drug trafficking funded by the INTERPOL Foundation for a Safer World.
The publication of several INTERPOL Purple Notices on the modus operandi of crime networks is further anticipated as a result of the operation.
Participating countries: Australia, Bahrain, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Syria, Thailand, Türkiye and UAE.